The Battle of Luxury Daily Beaters Part 2 – Rolex Datejust 41
Could this 41mm white metal Rolex Datejust be the best all-rounder? The one and only watch you will need in a lifetime?
When the new/updated Datejust 41 appeared in steel in 2017, there was jubilation among Rolex fans the world over. Not just because the Jubilee bracelet had made a welcome return, but also because a steel version translated into a lower price tag than its 2016 Rolesor siblings and increased the wearability factor no end. Like the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra we reviewed yesterday, the Rolex Datejust 41 is a solid candidate for the title of the best luxury daily beater.
This Rolex is a strong option for the ‘monowatchmen’ of this world, men who want just one watch that will look good and perform well in any context. While it might not have the star appeal and specificity of the Submariner, Daytona or GMT, the Datejust is the archetypal daily beater. Over the years, it has become the blueprint of the sporty/elegant 3-hand-and-date watch and imitated ad nauseam since its launch in 1945. The model we are reviewing today is the Rolex Datejust 41 in Oystersteel and white gold (steel case and bracelet, white gold bezel).
Editor’s note: this review of the Rolex Datejust 41 is part two of a series of three articles where we will compare two of the most desirable luxury daily beaters currently on the market. Two watches with the same concept, but two different flavours. The third article, which will be published after our two separate reviews, will pit them side-by-side.
PUTTING THE DATE WINDOW ON THE MAP
The Datejust appeared in 1945 to celebrate Rolex’s 40th anniversary and became the first self-winding waterproof chronometer to display the date in a window at 3 o’clock on the dial. It might not seem like a very big deal nowadays, but thanks to intermediate gears and a spring mechanism, the date disc performed an instantaneous jump at midnight, a 1955 Rolex milestone in watch development that set the standard for future date complications. Prior to the Datejust, watches relayed the date function on sub-dials or peripheral counters with pointer hands. Another novelty, launched in tandem with the innovative date window, was the Jubilee bracelet, a dressy five-link gold bracelet specially designed for the Datejust that is still in production today.
In 1954, two other hallmark features appeared on the Datejust: the Cyclops lens and the fluted bezel. The Cyclops lens, which increased legibility by two and a half times, and the fluted bezel, which substituted the flatter coin-edge bezel. You can check out our previous coverage on the Rolex DateJust for more details.
Full metal jacket
The 41mm white metal version we have in our hands is the continuation of the line introduced in 2016 in Rolesor versions. The 2016 Datejust marked a departure from the former 2009 Datejust 2 with a slimmer waistline and bezel and more tapered lugs, as well as the reintroduction of the iconic Jubilee bracelet. One of the main advantages of a white metal version (technically a Rolesor because of its combination of steel and white gold) over the Rolesor yellow/pink gold and steel versions is wearability. This full metal look is less flashy, younger and easier to combine with formal and weekend attire. Coupled with the sportier 41mm diameter (there is also a classic 36mm in catalogue), this particular model of the Datejust is well and truly a watch for every day of the year.
The relatively slim 11.8mm height of the central container slips easily under the cuff. When viewed from the side, you can appreciate the gentle curve of the lugs that adapt perfectly to the wrist. The polished and contrasting brushed finishes and the slimmer, more ergonomic case conspire to create a dressier, more elegant watch. As handsome as it is resilient, the watch comes with a screw-down crown and caseback ensuring 100m water-resistance.
After the date window, the most distinctive and eye-catching aspect of the Datejust is the fluted white gold bezel (the Crown never makes fluted bezels in steel). When viewed in the metal, you’d be surprised by how much light the pleated gold pattern on the bezel manages to reflect. It is hypnotising and a dead giveaway of the provenance of the watch. But the pleats also draw the eye in towards the centre of the watch creating a curious optical illusion that makes the watch seem smaller than its 41mm diameter would insinuate. Note that the Rolex Datejust 41 is also available with a flat, steel bezel.
Superlative legibility at all times
The dial of the Rolex Datejust 41 we have for this review features a lovely blue colour with a sunray finish that shimmers like satin in certain light conditions. The rectangular white gold hour markers are applied to the dial and treated with Chromalight for additional legibility, just like the blunt-edged baton hands. At 3 o’clock, the date window, covered by the signature Cyclops magnifying lens, confirms the essential vocation of this watch: legibility at all times. It might sound redundant, but the Datejust 41 is a superlatively easy watch to consult.
As mentioned, the Datejust can now be ordered with a choice of two bracelets, the sportier Oyster 3-link or the more elaborate, dressier 5-link Jubilee bracelet, both fitted with the folding Oysterclasp and its Easylink 5mm rapid DIY extension link. For many, the Jubilee is the most comfortable bracelet ever created with its small flexible links with rounded edges that follow the contours of the wrist like a second skin. An upgrade introduced in 2016 is the way the bracelet is now integrated with the case creating visual continuity between the two elements.
The finish of both bracelets is impeccable and, in the case of the Oyster bracelet, the contrast of the satin-brushed outer links and the thicker, brightly polished central echo the reflections created by the fluted bezel. In fact, the case and bracelet seem to have been crafted from the same piece of metal to create a harmonious, fluid and ergonomic design.
The Rolex Datejust 41 is equipped with the new generation Rolex calibre 3235 offering improvement in precision, shock and magnetic field resistance, along with upgraded power reserve (70 hours) and winding efficiency. Covered by 14 patents, calibre 3235 is now being used across the board in many Rolex’s date watches (including the Sea-Dweller, the Deepsea, the Yacht-Master 42 but not yet the Submariner). It features the new Chronergy escapement and the balance wheel is fitted with the Parachrom hairspring, a paramagnetic alloy exclusive to Rolex. The hairspring is fitted on Paraflex shock absorbers reinforcing shock resistance and the gear train benefits from Rolex’s in-house high-performance lubricants.
Calibre 3235 was also the first movement to be declared a Superlative Chronometer by Rolex. The criteria of Rolex’s own Superlative Chronometer certification surpass twice that of the COSC chronometer certification and the movement is regulated within tolerances of −2/+2 seconds per day. Watches bearing the Superlative Chronometer status come with a small green seal and a five-year guarantee.
it’s a rolex After all
The retail price of the Oystersteel with white gold bezel Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126334 is EUR 8,650. In all fairness, this is not an exorbitant price for a watch that could well be the investment of a lifetime. It is, in Brice’s definition, a perfect SUW – Sports Utility Watch – that is at home in any terrain with the added bonus of being a Rolex. Beyond the versatile sports/luxury styling, the robust casing and durable movement, brand recognition is a very powerful factor when weighing up candidates… And if there is one watch that sums up the solid, uninterrupted heritage of Rolex it is the Datejust.
More details at rolex.com.
Winner (in any diameter).
Thought I would end up with one of these but the MK2 39mm Explorer won out due to the lack of polished center links and slightly smaller case. If you can live without a date function, it’s a great option in this category.
It IS a classic. The classic? I personally feel that 41mm is too large. 39mm would have been a more considered compromise and 36mm is still the definitive size. And we can go on and on about the “Vuittonisation” of Rolex. But still, a Datejust needs no justification or explanation.
I’d rate the Explorer as even more versatile, unless you spend most of your time in a jacket and tie. It is plain enough to wear in The Gobi Desert or white-water rafting, but you still get a pass at The Dorchester, because it is a Rolex. I’d have chosen that as part 2 and a JLC Master Control Date as Part 1.
Part 3. The left-field-but-still-more-than-good-enough Sinn 104 St Sa I.
These three watches would cover practically all walks of life, from the rescue worker, to the stockbroker.
A great watch, but I do wonder if 39mm would be the perfect size?
I love my Rolex datejust 41 with Jubilee bracelet.. I did take me while to get one nice dress watch.
My Prince Date/Day 36mm (ref:76214) fulfills that need. It’s a tad more elegant than the modern Rolex version, much more realistically priced and doesn’t have the stigma of it’s bigger brother.
Is it lower quality? Yes.
In any way that matters? No.
I love my explorer but so many of Rolex’s offerings look cheap and flashy which I put down to the fluted bezel in this case, if it had the bezel of the 1945 version it would look great, but as it hasn’t it doesn’t.
My Air King (116900) is a regular beater favorite. I often work among large electrical machines and it does not miss a beat (literally). It is a bit small on my wrist – but is actually an advantage when wearing gloves and thick clothing.
The DJ-41 is a beautiful watch (and I have tried it on) – but right now I am eyeing the Explorer (216570) for the same purpose (to rotate the AK), but in the mean time I am hoping Rolex ups the movement to one with a 70 hour reserve (nice for rotating watches while travelling).
Spot on (especialy in white dial) !
the watch actually measures 39.5mm not 41 for all that are saying 39mm would be the perfect size.. I own the rhodium diamond dial on jubilee.